The Rev. Leonard Oakes
August 25, 2013
In the name of God who is Love. Amen
In many instances, Luke places a woman at the center of the story.
Here again, Luke tells us a story about a woman afflicted for 18 years with a spirit that left her crippled and bent over. It is a very powerful story told as it does the unbidden grace of God coming upon a person- a woman- and setting her free to walk upright and to praise God. Such is a story of miracle freely given upon one in need in the midst of the worship of the living God- the Sabbath- There Jesus called the bent woman, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
The healing of the woman crippled for 18 years caused yet another confrontation between Jesus and the religious authorities. A leader of the Synagogue, a layman challenged Jesus about the rule of the Sabbath, where it is forbidden to do any works for it is dedicated to worshipping God alone.
Jesus lashed out in condemnation of such hypocrisy! He drew a comparison between compassion he just have shown for the woman, and the perfectly normal care the man would give to his animal. In the end, the woman left triumphantly to celebrate her new freedom from pain and disability of 18 years and now able to visit friends and enjoy life just as the rest do.
This story of the crippled and bent over is certainly our story. Who is here among us who does not have pain and anxiety? Who is here that does not carry a heavy burden and not doing well with it at all? The woman was oppressed by a social system that devalues her, by a system that sees her as more or less of no account, much as today’s system that sees us as less value, sees us as consumers, as numbers to be valued only by our power to purchase commodities and to be ignored when it sees that we will return less to the bottom line than we take from it, if it seems we will be a drain on the health system, a drain on the economy, a drain on the family.
We certainly identify ourselves with this woman when our workplace tries to get rid of us because they cannot use us much as they would because of our disabilities.
We identify ourselves with this woman with herself doubt, a spirit that convinces her that she has no strength, no ability, no purpose, even though she is a child of Abraham, even though she is one of God’s chosen ones.
We identify ourselves with this woman when there was a time when we feel like we were outcast by the very family that we love and grew up with, just because we have a different vision in life. We become nobody for them and would rather have us vanished from their sight.
But Jesus, amidst the busy place, sees this woman and had compassion on her. In the midst of his teaching, he calls her to come to him. She would have been easy to overlook and missed. Looking at the crowd in the synagogue that day, Jesus, like the rest, could have seen this bent over woman as simply someone needing a health professional. Or, like some today, he could have seen her as victim of an unjust society, as one more casualty whose presence informs us of the need for change in our social order, as simply one more person who needs to be set free from the disease and disorder that is present in our world. How surprised she must have been to have been called forward by Jesus to come to his presence that he may touch and heal her saying, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
That is for us too! That is what so many of us need! The word of Jesus addressed to us. The touch and voice of Jesus heal us when he says, “My child, you are set free from your ailment, from your pain, from your worries, from your anxieties, from your burdens”
Think of the joy that flooded the joy of this healed woman. She went praising God and thanking Him. She went about telling her friends and is once again being able to do the things just anybody can do.
Jesus must have smiled as he watched her go triumphantly of her freedom from pain and disability.
I need to feel that same feeling Jesus had by helping others feel they are loved and cared for. I need to show the same compassion to every child of God I meet. I need to feel again and again that wonderful feeling when a homeless gets up from the cardboard he is sleeping and say, “Thank you, God bless you” when I hand that bag of food our volunteers prepared for them. Would you do the same?
How many of us work in the medical field? Think about what happens to your patient when you don’t tend to their needs? What happens when they get wet and soaked in bed, when they are in pain, whey they needed to walk to regain strength, when, just by sitting for two hours being unmoved or repositioned, will develop a skin breakdown and eventually become pressure ulcer that leads to infection and amputation or even death. Think if we all leave them alone on a sabbath day? Think about the families who are grieving of their loved ones in a hospital bed. Just for us to be there quietly and prayerfully with them, listen to their cries and that we are just there as a shoulder to lean on.
Think about the person who has been suffering from arthritis or parkinson’s whose hands and fingers cannot even lift a spoon or hold a glass of water to drink because of a crippling condition. Think about their frustrations.
Think about those who are living in the streets without shelter and food. Those without insurance and no doctors for a check up? Those elders at home who are isolated and depressed, those children who are mentally incapacitated.
How many teachers do we have here? Teachers who have seen the desperate needs of parents to send their kids for better future, students who come to school depressed and with new bruises and signs of maltreatment or being bullied.
How many of us are unemployed for months and years and are on the edge of losing their hopes? How many of us are desperate to let go of that crippling economic situation and trying to move on for another chapter of life and wanting to set free.
How many of us are still victims of that looming aged of racial discrimination when it comes to employment, Health needs, Security and the like. If Martin Luther King Jr. is still alive today, he would say, “I didn’t die and live to see these diseases of social discrimination still loom around.”
Isn’t these our story? We need to be set free from these. All of us need to be set free. Each of us need that calling of Christ and be set free from our ailment. I believe that happens if we only listen to his calling and trust on his loving embrace. Let us all be enveloped by God’s compassion and mercy.
Jesus sees us, he discerns who we are and the spirit that are in us, and unbidden he calls to us, just as he called to the bent over woman. He reaches out to us and seeks to set us free. Jesus is calling to us with a stretch hands. We need to recognize him in our midst and accept what he has to offer us. Jesus sees us in our needs. He know what oppresses us. He is here to set us free. He may be in the person next to you. He may be the next person whom you see on the street corner or in the supermarket. Look and believe, listen and be set free. His word and his touch still drive out the spirits that oppress, and allow those who respond to his call to stand straight once again and praise God’s name.
Amidst our sorrow for the loss of two of our members this week: our Senior Warden James Adams and Andronico Gumtang, there is a reason for us to celebrate and be thankful, for God is with us whatever pain there may be.
There is another reason for us to celebrate for a child in our midst, Kenzonton Xavier Torres, will be baptized and bring a new life in his family and this community. let all our smile out and spread to the person next to you.
Let us therefore thank God for all the blessing he has given us by being thankful and pray without ceasing. Amen.